Should I buy a circular saw or a table saw?

I don’t have a ton of experience with either if that makes a difference. I will need it to mitre and bevel but either one can do that now a days AFAIK. I’m building a chicken coop so a circular saw would work fine and is cheap but I also want to make aeolian harps and my son would make a great woodworker/carpenter if it interested him more so that would say table saw.

BUT, I’ve heard a few people saw a circular saw will do anything a table saw does like rip and cross cut and is more versatile since it is portable. Isn’t there also an issue in that table saws have a maximum width that they cut? Even so, is that really an issue?

Circular saws tend to not be as precise.

It sounds like a compound miter saw would be a better fit for your needs. Ripping large pieces on a table saw can be difficult by yourself if you don’t have a large workbench. They are also considered one of the most dangerous power tools so consider if you’re not comfortable. I use my miter saw and table saw much more frequently than the circular saw.

There are tasks for which a table saw is suitable and a circular saw isn’t. There are tasks for which a circular saw is suitable but a table saw isn’t. For the chicken coop, like you say, a circular saw would be fine, but the other tasks a table saw would be better. If you can only get one, I’d go for the table saw.

Some of it comes down to personal preference, but I think I’ve used my circular saw maybe once in the last 10 years. I get much more use out of my table saw.

Table saws do have a maximum width that they can cut. The one time that was an issue is the one time I used my circular saw.

BTW, by far the saw I used the most is a compound miter saw.

I agree a circular saw is more versatile. You aren’t going to trim a row of overhanging boards on your coop with a table saw. A table saw is more expensive and does a more perfect job of some of those things that either saw could do. If you are only going to have one, probably the circular saw is the one to have.

If you were buying it for a specific kind of activity like making birdhouses, maybe a table saw would be better, but if you are doing anything you could call construction, such as a coop. go with the circular.

both have a maximum depth of cut.

you can do many things with a handheld circular saw but for many things you need skill and practice to do well. using a circular to musical instruments, furniture, picture frames would take lots of skill, better on a table saw. or better with a fine hand saw after rough cutting with a circular saw or table saw.

for using where the job is a circular saw is better.

since circular saws are less expensive then get one to match your tasks. then also get a table saw if you need it.

Moderator Action

Since this is more of a matter of opinion than a factual question, let’s move it over to IMHO.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

A circular saw can cut just about any way you want, but it’s a pain in the ass to do so with much precision. I say this as someone who recently built some simple pine furniture with a good quality circular saw. I really struggled to get good square cuts. For instance, the base can tilt and has a stop at 0°, but that is off by a degree or two. I could adjust it to be actually square, but it wouldn’t hold the adjustment for the long term. And I could still screw up a cut if I didn’t hold the saw perfectly straight.

For framing and your chicken coop, mostly square is acceptable, so a circular saw is the best tool for the job.

I have pretty much all the popular common tools. I use my 12" mitre saw a lot. My circular saw a lot and my table and band saws a lot. I would go for a mitre saw and a skill saw if I had to narrow down my choices. A cheap table saw in my eyes is not worth buying.

By “circular saw” do you mean “radial arm saw”? Because I’ve always considered “circular saw” to refer to a hand held power saw with a circular (commonly 7.5 inch diameter) blade. I see little useful comparison between that and a table saw, which is much more stable and capable of quite fine work if used with care and some skill.

Radial arm saws are more comparable to table saws, and are probably more competent at cross cutting longer lengths of material, which can be unwieldy on a table saw unless a large surrounding bench is available. All such tools involve some compromise, so unless you have the space and the funds to have one of every kind, you’ll have to accept some tradeoffs.

My personal compromise is for a quality table saw, which I use for most finer work and for ripping long material. A supporting jack or a helper at the output side makes this simple. And for cross cutting, which is a table saw’s weakest point, I have a 14" sliding compound miter saw. I also have a couple of circular saws for portable use, when just cutting something on site is easier than carrying it back to the shop.

I know what a miter saw is. Why does it seem like cross cutting on a table saw is a bad idea?

It isn’t a bad idea, provided the material isn’t too long or otherwise unwieldy. Table saws have a sliding guide for holding the material being cross-cut. This is (in my personal experience) capable of quite accurate work if the operator uses some degree of care. But if you need an accurate cross-cut at one end of, say, an 8 foot piece of baseboard molding (a common scenario) you may have some trouble manipulating the piece, holding it against the sliding guide, and controlling the long end flopping off the side of the table.

A miter saw can ease this process. Mine has a 6 foot “table” and can be positioned left or right anywhere on it, so supporting a floppy end is easier. And you don’t need to slide the material, just hold it still and move the saw head.

With all due respect, you seem a bit new to the woodworking hobby. For your chicken coop project, I’d recommend settling on a plan, purchasing the wood (and other materials, too) and renting a circular, mitre, or even a reciprocal saw for a day or a weekend. READ ALL YOUR USER MANUALS FIRST. Measure thrice, cut once, practice-fit your pieces, cut a bit more, and return the rented machine ASAP.

You’ll get some time to experience the tool and have a (slightly) better idea of whether you think your future projects will benefit more from the tool you rented or perhaps you should try another type for the next project.

And I’d also note that, while many modern tools (e.g. table saws*) are often usable in both industries, there’s a fair difference between construction woodworking and cabinetry/fine furniture. I worked for years at a place that sold parts and tools to both industries and often thought I’d enjoy doing some cabinetry; turns out I’m better doing rough framing and miniature toys, but cabinetry and medium-scale stuff just isn’t something I have a flare for.


*which is why the field subdivided into jobsite/contractors’ table saws, and cabinetry/workshop table saws.

As the owner of a cheap table saw I must sheepishly agree. It’s basically a work bench with a saw in the middle that can do a couple tricks. I’ve learned to work within its limits so it’s not thoroughly useless, though. But trying to rip a particularly long board is quite trying because the fence is almost parallel enough with the blade to keep the board from binding up.

Yes, agreed, the cheap ones are mostly a pain in the ass with limited utility. And there is a big difference between the contractor versions (rugged but smaller table and less accurate) and cabinetry versions (can be really accurate, and larger, but also will be pricy). The contractor version will probably be well suited to framing out a chicken coop. If your future projects are similar, you will be happy with one of these. But if you decide to make a picture frame for your living room, or a furniture grade toybox for the kids, or something else that requires accurate cuts and miters, you’ll curse the contractor model.

All the advice in this thread is quite good. I concur with the poster who suggested you rent something to get a feel for your own needs and the characteristics of the tool. Or find a friend or neighbor who has tools. Share a drink and let him show you his favorite and not so favorite tricks with tools. Once you’ve handled some of them and contemplated your own future needs, you will make a better decision.

You should definitely have a circular saw if you do work on your house. There are many times when you need to cut wood. Only a circular saw will be flexible enough to cut pretty much anything you need–board, planks, decking, plywood, etc. It’s not super precise, but for most homebuilding applications you don’t need tight tolerances.

Table saws are for best for cabinetry or furniture building tasks. Do harps have curved surfaces? If so, you may need a band saw. A table saw can pretty much only saw straight lines.

Do you have a community college in your area? Often, they have woodworking classes where you build a simple box or something. You’ll get hands-on experience with a variety of woodworking tools.

Regardless, definitely get a circular saw. You can build the chicken coop with just the circular saw. Get a good one. Cheap tools are a pain to use–especially if you’re a novice.

Great advice … I’m a carpenter by trade and I’ve seen a lot of rookies loose fingers with a power saw. Makita used to put out a good sidewinder, you could do some decent work with it, but it wasn’t really rugged enough for anything more than homeowner duty. Treat it like glass, just one drop and your plate will bend and there goes any excuse for accuracy.

I recommend getting a belt sander before a table saw. Table saw is nice, but it doesn’t do anything a sidewinder can’t do. Belt sander will save you more time and blisters than anything else you could buy. Build a jig to hold it and you’ll have a fair platform sander.

BE CAREFUL … power tools kill … I suggest competence in the hand version before you get the powered version.

Really good work requires really good blades. Good 10" tablesaw blades run me from $60.00 to about 180.00. But they last a long time and can be sharpened and reconditioned.

unless you buy an attachment like this. Many brands on the market designed to keep a circular saw on track. The problem with table saws is cost. A good one with a good fence is expensive and takes up a lot of room. A cheap one will just piss you off. For the price of one you can buy a decent circular saw, a track system and a compound sliding miter saw.

Use to be able to buy a piranha curved kerf blade for a circular saw for $10. Not in the same league as an expensive table saw blade but it really zipped through wood. Wish they’d bring it back.